Delta To Offer Daily Cape Town Flights

A new triangular route will launch in December—more than two years after the carrier first unveiled the plans.

Credit: Joe Pries

Delta Air Lines is expanding service to South Africa during the upcoming winter season with the launch of a new triangular route that will see the coastal city of Cape Town (CPT) receive daily flights.

The US carrier has been vying to increase its footprint in the country for the past two years, building on a long-standing link between Atlanta ({ATL}}) and Johannesburg (JNB). Service between the two cities began in December 2006, initially operating via Dakar in Senegal before becoming nonstop.

Delta attempted to launch an Atlanta-Johannesburg-Cape Town-Atlanta triangular route in 2020 and again in 2021 but failed to secure the green light from South Africa’s government. However, regulators finally approved the plans earlier this year, paving the way for the Chicago-based carrier to enter the market.

According to data filed with OAG Schedules Analyser, the airline will begin ATL-JNB-CPT-ATL operations on Dec. 2, flying four times per week using Airbus A350-900 aircraft. At the same time, the airline’s nonstop Atlanta-Johannesburg service will switch from daily frequencies to 3X-weekly, meaning South Africa’s largest city will continue to receive daily flights.

On Dec. 17, Delta will also launch a nonstop Atlanta-Cape Town route that will be served three times per week onboard A350-900s. This means that Cape Town—a market last served by Delta in 2009—will also have a daily US connection.

Delta applied in February 2022 to the US Transportation Department (DOT) for the rights to operate ATL-CPT but faced fierce competition from United Airlines for the frequencies. Under the US-South Africa bilateral agreement, air service to South Africa was limited to 21 weekly frequencies for US carriers—only four of which were still available. 

However, in July the DOT negotiated an additional two flights per week, thereby allowing Delta and United to each launch 3X-weekly services. United’s new Cape Town route will start on Nov. 18 from Washington Dulles (IAD).

In anticipation of the new Delta and United routes, a campaign has been launched to increase trade to the US from Cape Town and South Africa’s Western Cape. "Made in the Cape US" is a collaboration between the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town and economic development agency Wesgro, which is set to go live in market at the end of September 2022.

“There is clearly a demand for Western Cape goods, which is why now is the perfect time for a targeted push to boost exports to the US further,” provincial minister of finance and economic opportunities Mireille Wenger said.

“Increasing connections to other markets is a strategic priority for the Western Cape Government so that we can increase tourism and trade and attract the investment we need to grow the economy and create jobs.”